Solar For Lola!

We have Solar for Lola!

It’s been a long time coming, we have solar for Lola.  AM Solar came through, and we installed 4 160 watt solar panels on the Roof.  Originally we were looking at 6 100 watt panels because AM Solar was  having issues with the 160 watt panels they were receiving.  But the latest panels tested good, and we opted for the 4 160s.    The square footage of the panels are the same for 4 160s vs 6 100s.  Because there is only room for two rows of panels, the 160 watt installation actually takes up less roof space.  This gives us more room to expand in the future.

We checked in Monday morning.  The evaluation took a bit longer because of some electrical problems we created when we shorted out a battery while insulating the battery box.  Simple mistake not following my diagram of the cables and batteries.  The solar panels and batteries got installed over the next 4 days, and we tested Lola Thursday night, leaving for home Friday Morning.  AM Solar was great to work with.  They came in under-budget and on time.  Roger was great to work with during the ordering and scheduling process and Cody went through the systems one at a time in detail.  We have all the system documentation including diagrams specific to our installation.  Thanks to the entire crew at AM Solar!

160 Watt Solar Panel and Christine

160 Watt Solar Panel and Christine

The actual setup now includes:

 

 

 

We upgraded our batteries to a 300 amp-hour lithium pack built by AM Solar replacing a 300 amp-hour wet cell battery pack (3 batteries).  We also replaced the chassis batteries with AGM batteries in case we decided to insulate the entire battery compartment.  Since lithium batteries should be charged when the interior battery temperature is 32 degrees or warmer, we insulated the lithium battery itself – we tested it to 22 degrees without a heater and to 12 degrees using a little desk heater.  The lithium batteries give us twice the capacity because they can drop down to 10-15% of capacity vs. 50-60% on a wet cell.  Plus, lithium-ion batteries charge up in a fraction of the time.  Of course this requires a new inverter/battery charger that supports the fast charging and different charge strategy (lithium-ion batteries don’t like constant trickle charging).   With our new charger we can actually fast-charge the batteries while we are driving using solar+alternator, or while boondocking using solar+generator, or while connected to the grid using shore solar+shore power or just solar.  We are looking forward to doing more tests of the solar charging options once we are full-timers.

Room to Expand

We have room for 4 more 150/160 watt solar panels on the roof, and additional lithium batteries in the battery bay.  Over the next year we will be recording our power usage to see how the setup meets our needs.

Benefits Summarized

Our 640 watts of solar panels and 300 Amp Hours of Lithium provides several benefits:

  • Faster battery charging:  Lithium batteries charge much faster than wet-cell batteries and can utilize combinations of solar, engine alternator, generator and shore power
  • Weigh less:  Lithium batteries weigh less – more than making up the weight of the solar panels
  • Less maintenance and longer life: Lithium batteries require virtually no maintenance and last longer than wet-cell batteries
  • More usable energy: Lithium batteries can be drawn down to 10% of their capacity without damaging the battery
  • Silent Charging:  Solar charging makes no sound so you don’t have to worry about ‘quiet hours’
  • Charge Anywhere there is sun:  We can charge our batteries anywhere there is sun.  Even on cloudy days you get some charge reducing the amount of shore power or generator usage

We are looking forward to tracking our solar usage and the related conditions as we travels.

Gone with the Wynn’s

We just missed seeing Nikki and Jason Wynn of Gone With the Wynns as they were busy editing video, but we managed to snap a ‘proof’ picture that we were there!  They have provided us with inspiration and real-world RV know-how, and of course of few things NOT to do.

Gone with the Wynns - Almost metUntil next time…

 

JC

RV Solar, Lithium Battery Upgrades and a Fix-it Day

RV Solar, Lithium Battery Upgrades and a Fix-it Day

The RV has a Name and a “Fix-it” day

Our 2008 Winnebago Journey has a Name

Naming a vehicle may seem silly. It is another one of the ‘human nature’ things that I mention from time to time.  For thousands of years humans routinely name their rides – whether they be ancient sailing ships, horses or Recreational Vehicles. Naming our ‘ride’ has been difficult.  Nothing seemed to fit the persona she is going to play in our lives.  For us, and “her” time’s are a’changin.

Christine suggests Lola (jokingly), and it stuck.

We purchased Lola August of last year, 6 years young – but with only 17,000 miles on her. For us – we will be Full Timing SOON, traveling from coast to coast and who knows where else. Lola’s and our “lives” are changing.

Lola’s on the big screen have often been seductive, earning the phrase… “what Lola wants… Lola gets.”  And check out the excerpt from the Urban Dictionary on Lola:

Our Lola

Our Lola

This is the type of girl that once she’s in your heart she’ll stay there for ever; she’s everything a guy could ever want/need. She fascinates you by her stunning looks and great personality, her voice creates a sense of happiness, every time you hear that voice it leaves you speechless, astounded and most of all so so happy. She has these most magnificent pair of sky blue eyes which gleam out and shine, making your heart warm and feeling very much in love. You’ll find yourself on your toes with this girl, she’s full of excitement and surprise, she’s a challenge but not a bad one. This girl is hard to come by, if you’ve got this girl you’re the luckiest guy in the world, as she’s truly perfect. Once in love with her consider yourself locked, her superlative qualities and personality will put you off all other girls for life, as there is no one else like Lola.
Lola Once in love with her you’re in love forever.
by mattloveslola4ever October 19, 2011

Yeah, I can see Lola fits.

Meeting with AM Solar – Time to get Serious about our Solar Upgrade

In November of last year we met with AM Solar located in Springfield, Oregon to discuss installing solar panels.  We came away with a list of items to research. First, we needed to estimate how much power do we consume while boondocking.  Secondly, what are our goals for the Solar and Lithium battery upgrade.  We  spent the next few months figuring out data we needed to collect, and then collecting it.  Then, this past June we met with them again for a final consultation before scheduling the install.

Change of format for this post

The format of this post has changed so that most of the information we want to share is in our VLog that you can watch here:

(Split into smaller segments 8/12/15)

 

[unitegallery VideoGalAug2015]

 

Resources for Solar

Solar allows us to live in our RV in places that are more remote than a traditional RV campground.  In addition, it allows us to consume less non-renewable energy.  Some of the resources we found useful are listed here.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it was the top places we used.

Along with the book:

And the tool:

And for the ‘Fix-it’ day Screen Door repair, we purchased:

And for the ‘Fix-it’ day Chair Repair, we purchased:

The bottom Line for our Solar Installation

Luckily our Journey has a side house A/C unit, so the only competition for roof space are 2 vents, the TV antenna and a satellite dish (that we will probably not use) along with a few other small vents and wire antennas.

Since the 160 watt solar panels that we want are not available right now, we are going with 6 100 watt panels kits (with all the hardware). The latest word we have from AM Solar is the 160 watt panels could be available by the time our panels get installed.  With the tilt-bars the solar panels will be about $1800. Then the 300 Amp Hour lithium battery pack runs about $2600.  We also opted to get a 40 Amp 700 watt solar controller/battery charger & monitor that runs $1000  and an upgraded Magnum MS-2000 inverter for $1600 that finishes the major hardware items for this upgrade.  Installation will of course vary depending on your rig’s setup.

Our primary objective was to get Lola set up and running for boondocking when we retire, and not have any conflicts or issues spending several days ‘off the grid’.  You may not need to upgrade as many items as we are if you are sticking with deep cycle batteries and if your existing electrical equipment is newer. Here Technomadia writes about their 3 1/2 years of using Lithium batteries in their bus and Gone with the Wynns blog about their major RV upgrades including Lithium batteries.

Thanks for reading and listening.  Feedback is welcome – especially as we explore balancing the blog and v-log formats.  Soon we will be sharing the installation experience with you!

Sidenote

Our trip to Thousand Trails Russian River that was scheduled for the end of July is postponed because “Trippin’ Jeff” fell and broke his hip.  Yes, I guess there is a reason for the theme of our journey to be Trippin’ With The Engles.  No, I was not texting.  I didn’t even have my phone with me.  Things happen.

We have some more upgrades planned for Lola before the solar installation, so stay tuned!  The pace is picking up as we get closer to full timing!